Unexpected experiences in the Russian countryside
A month or so ago I was due to meet up with a friend in Moscow, where we were going to take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express together a few days later. When I landed, my friend and I realized, unstructured as we were, that weren’t arriving on the same day. Fortunately, my visa was valid for my arrival date, not the day after. I wasn’t so fortunate however, with my accommodation. Check-in wasn’t for another 24 hours and it was also the weekend of the World Cup Final in Moscow, so finding somewhere to stay was therefore a bit of a tricky solution to solve. I did manage to book into a small pod in a hostel that was absolutely OK, but it meant I was alone in Moscow. So, I scrolled through my phone and social media before deciding to get in touch with a Russian guy I had met at a festival for experimental electronic music in Tromsø a couple of years ago. The festival was called Insomnia, I can recommend it, and above all, I can thoroughly recommend Tromsø.
I wrote to him saying I was in Moscow and asked what was happening over the weekend. He said there was a one-day festival four hours south of Moscow and invited me along. I hesitated as I barely knew him and didn’t have a sleeping bag or tent, but he collected me at the hostel within an hour with spare equipment for me to borrow.
After four hours of driving on classic Russian rough and ready roads with stops for various Russian sodas to drink, we arrived. The event was more of a gigantic art exhibition rather than a festival, as I had imagined. The artist Nikolay Polissky had built giant sculptures in a massive nature park. Some were four or five storeys high and you could climb almost all of them. The idea was that you could look at them from the outside, look out of them from the inside and climb them to interact with the work of art. An incredibly beautiful place.
The park was so big, it took a couple of hours to walk from one end to the other. A flowing river frames it on one side and there was an ancient, abandoned church with adjacent graveyard with fantastic views. There were also a couple of restaurants and bars.
We hung out there with Russian artists and gallery owners until it got dark, and looked forward to the evening’s concert. A large orchestra played Steve Reich in a huge field accompanied by a wonderful light show. This was followed by a party down by the river into the small hours. My Russian friend knew the artist Polissky, so we camped on his plot. In the morning, we ate breakfast with him and he gave us a few good tips ahead of our Russia trip, although there was general bemusement that I wanted to travel to Siberia. After breakfast we drove back to Moscow and watched the World Cup Final in a sports bar.
Once back in Moscow, much of my time was spent buying stuff for the journey and trying out some great restaurants. I really like Moscow. Then two days later it was time to start the summer holiday itself – a train journey on the Trans-Siberian Express. But more on that next week.
I know quite a few Russians, so I’m not surprised. But it’s amazing how wonderful they are at showing you their country and their culture.
Hotels in Russia
Every time you check into a hotel or change hotels, you have to register. The authorities want to know exactly where you’re spending the night all the time.
Shopping shoes in Russia
Buying new running shoes in Moscow isn’t easy when you don’t speak Russian and have been running long enough to have pretty specific requirements. The Cyrillic alphabet doesn’t help either.
October 05, 2018